Life is a Miracle (Zivot Je Cudo) (2004)

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Released 7-Sep-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Making Of-(42:09)
Trailer-Exiles; 2046; Grizzly Man; Land Of Plenty; Night On Earth
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 148:06
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Emir Kusturica
Studio
Distributor
Madman
Madman Entertainment
Starring Slavko Stimac
Natasa Solak
Vesna Trivalic
Vuk Kostic
Aleksandar Bercek
Stribor Kusturica
Mirjana Karanovic
Branislav Lalevic
Nikola Kojo
Davor Janjic
Adnan Omerovic
Obrad Djurovic
Dr. Nele Karajlic
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Emir Kusturica
Dejan Sparavalo


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Serbo-Croatian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Serbo-Croatian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Life Is A Miracle (Zivot je cudo) begins on the eve of the Bosnian war of 1992. Luka (Slavko Stimac), a railway engineer, spends much of his time babysitting a partially completed railway system and constructing scale models of his plans for the network. Luka's wife, Jadranka (Vesna Trivalic), and son, Milos (Vuk Kostic), are not as enamoured by the railway as he is, in fact they resent him for dragging them away from the city to a boring life in the sticks. Milos has aspirations to become a professional soccer player and Jadranka was once an admired opera star, but her talents are now relegated to seedy local functions and political fundraisers. Oh, the shame! Against their expectations, the war begins and Milos is called to arms, reluctantly of course, and at the farewell party his emotionally unstable mother flees with a passing Hungarian musician, leaving Luka to fend for himself.

    In a matter of days Milos is reported missing, presumed captured by the enemy. As if by fate, Luka is landed with the responsibility of watching over Sabaha (Natasa Solak), a Muslim nurse whom Luka initially hopes to trade for his captured son. As any adult would know, sparks can fly in the most unusual of places, so with an absent wife and little to do, the housebound Luka and Sabaha get well acquainted amid the falling shells and machinegun fire. Trouble is, when it comes time for his son to return home, can Luka possibly bear to part with his new found sweetheart?

    Directed by Emir Kusturica, this is an extremely humorous and eccentric film despite the war-torn setting and potentially tragic outcome. The direction is inventive, rich and colourful and the pace is quite fast at times, making a lot to absorb in one viewing, particularly when interpreting the film via subtitles. I found this film immensely enjoyable and I'm certain it would be appreciated by anyone who enjoys a film that strays from the typical Hollywood formula. This is highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film has been transferred to DVD in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement.

    The transfer suffers from a rather low bitrate (4.5Mb/s average), and it shows in the quality of the image. Compression artefacts are frequent and are exacerbated by movement on screen such as dancing and sport. Scenes that involve fog and smoke are not very well handled, either. During calmer scenes when there is not so much movement on screen, the image is relatively clear and easy on the eye.

    Film artefacting is also present from time to time, usually in the form of specks of dust and dirt, accompanied by an acceptable level of film grain. These are not nearly as intrusive as the level of edge enhancement that has been applied to the image. Hideous white edges are visible around characters' faces during some scenes, but not all.

    The film has a very rich colour scheme, and these are translated well without becoming oversaturated. Skin tones appear realistic, in particular.

    An English subtitle stream is activated by default and is relatively easy to read. I didn't notice any major errors in the text, although it does seem to run a little behind the dialogue at times.

    This disc is dual layered, with the layer transition placed during the feature at 57:46. If your system is not buffered, it is likely this break will interrupt the soundtrack score.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks accompanying this film on DVD, both in the film's original Serbo-Croatian language. Many lines are spoken in other languages such as German, Hungarian and English. The default soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s), which is strangely not listed on the cover slick. The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) soundtrack can be selected manually or on the fly, and was my preferred.

    The dialogue is clear and although the pace is often fast it is easy to discern which character is speaking if you are busy reading subtitles. I didn't note any ADR problems or sync issues in the slightest.

    The surround channels are used to add a great deal of realism to the bombing and gunfire, and also carry a great deal of the score. I noticed that the stereo soundtrack responded particularly well to Pro Logic II processing, directing portions of the score and some effects to the rears. In my opinion the stereo option is unnecessary and the disc space would have been better utilised to increase the video quality.

    The film's excellent, brassy score is credited to Dejan Sparavalo and Emir Kusturica. Some very interesting instrumentation has been used, the dulcimer is featured heavily in fact, and the overall score has a decidedly mischievous, playful tone.

    The subwoofer accentuates explosions effectively, as well as the lower end of the score such as the bass guitar and tuba.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The main menu page is preceded by an amusing introduction and accompanied by a clip from the film's score. The menu pages are 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette-Making Of (42:09)

    The old chestnuts of filmmaking, specifically having to work with children and animals, are just a few of the on-set challenges we are shown here. Many cast and crew members are interviewed and this documentary often gives a great fly-on-the-wall perspective as the director communicates with his cast and crew. Sound insightful? It would be, if it were provided with some kind of English translation. A few brief moments of English dialogue can be found, such as Kusturica's opening interview, but the majority of the spoken language is Serbo-Croatian. How disappointing! This making-of is presented with 16x9 enhancement.

Theatrical Trailer (1:42)

    The film's theatrical trailer, presented without 16x9 enhancement.

Madman Trailers (5)

    Trailers for the Director's Suite titles Exiles; 2046; Grizzly Man; Land of Plenty; and Wim Wenders' Night On Earth.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There doesn't appear to be a Region 1 release available at the moment.

    The Region 2 UK release by Artificial Eye is spread over two discs and includes the following features:

    The Region 2 release has an identical feature runtime and commonsense would suggest it has superior video quality, with less compression due to the extras being on the second disc. Their transfer seems to suffer from the same edge enhancement issues I mentioned above.

Summary

    Life Is A Miracle is an enjoyable tale that is sure to be loved by those who seek something a little different in cinema. I recommend it highly.

    The video transfer is let down by MPEG over-compression and edge enhancement.

    The audio transfer is lively and immersive.

    The value of the extras is negated somewhat by the lack of any English translation during the lengthy making-of documentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Friday, August 04, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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